US Military Training in West Africa and Beyond – The Organization for World Peace
On January 24, Burkina Faso witnessed its third destabilizing coup in less than a decade. It was also the eighth successful putsch launched by American soldiers in several West African countries since 2008. The Intercept reports that the new leader of Ouagadougou, Colonel Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba, took part in numerous US-led and US-sponsored AFRICOM (Africa Command) exercises. military intelligence course. This disturbing pattern raises serious questions about what the US military is teaching its African allies.
The United States developed an alarming habit of training individuals likely to commit horrific crimes after the outbreak of the Cuban Revolution in 1959. The School of the Americas (renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation in 2001) based in Fort Benning, Georgia, spent decades the dark arts of torture and counterinsurgency warfare to thousands of Central and Latin American soldiers and would-be dictators bent on annihilating socialist or peasant movements. Distinguished alumni include Bolivian autocrat Hugo Banzer, Panamanian strongman turned drug lord Manuel Noriega and Salvadoran Colonel Domingo Monterrosa. Monterrosa led battalions that massacred a thousand civilians in the village of El Mozote, according to anthropologist Lesley Gill.
Guatemalan SOA students have also had outstanding careers. Proud graduates like dictators Efraín Rios Montt, General Fernando Lucas García, and various members of Guatemala’s fearsome D-2 intelligence agency terrorized the indigenous and impoverished Mayan community into submission during a nearly four-decade-long civil war. The devastating scorched-earth campaigns, which reached their peak in the early 1980s, wiped out hundreds of Mayan villages and nearly all of their inhabitants. Journalist Zach El Parece noted that a member of the infamous “Kaibiles” special forces, a unit that bludgeoned children to death with hammers for being communist sympathizers in the village of Dos Erres, among many others, is later became an instructor at the SOA.
The Guatemalan Commission for Historical Clarification (CEH) concluded that the Guatemalan military was responsible for the displacement of 1.5 million people and the murder or disappearance of most of the 200,000 war victims. The CEH deemed the army’s atrocities so serious that they constituted acts of genocide against the Maya population. The report even highlighted the crucial role of the United States in strengthening “Guatemala’s lethal national intelligence apparatus and in training the officer corps in counterinsurgency techniques, key factors that have had a significant impact on violations of human rights…”
The US government has also paid millions to train Indonesian soldiers involved in Jakarta’s barbaric occupation of East Timor. Amnesty International revealed that approximately 7,300 Indonesian officers attended International Military Education and Training (IMET) courses at US-based Army, Navy and Air Force schools between 1950 and the early 1990s. Washington promised to rescind military aid to Indonesia after the 1991 Santa Cruz massacre, in which Indonesian troops killed 271 protesters at a peaceful pro-independence rally in the Timorese capital of Dili. However, they secretly continued to train Kopassus’ elite troops. This regiment, according to the Guardian, has engaged in “some of the worst human rights abuses in Indonesian history”.
Prabowo Subianto, Indonesia’s current defense minister, trained at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, finished first in his class and joined Kopassus after returning home. Historian Gerry van Klinken and journalist Jill Jolliffe believe it is highly likely that Subianto was involved in the brutal suppression of the 1983-84 East Timorese uprising. A former Indonesian intelligence employee claimed Subianto led counter-insurgency operations that massacred hundreds of innocent civilians. Soldiers executed on sight women and children who surrendered, while countless others endured starvation, torture, sexual abuse, and arbitrary detention in overcrowded concentration camps. Additionally, journalist David Jenkins claims that the Kopassus eagerly adopted the tactics of the shadowy American Phoenix program perfected during the Vietnam War – a program that murdered thousands of Vietnamese peasants with impunity. The heinous methods of the US-trained “Contra” death squads in Nicaragua also proved highly influential among the Kopassus.
Scholar Noam Chomsky claims that Jakarta’s invasion of East Timor resulted in “perhaps the highest death toll in relation to population since the Holocaust…”. poisoning. The Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor has delivered a damning verdict: the US-backed Indonesian military deliberately imposed unbearable living conditions that nearly wiped out East Timorese. A genocide in paradise, to use the haunting expression of Matthew Jardine.
US special forces also formed the Tutsi RPA (Rwandan Patriotic Army) in the late 1990s as it decimated refugee camps and massacred Hutu exiles fleeing in the jungles of eastern Congo. Many of them were sick and starving civilians who had nothing to do with the 1994 Tutsi genocide. Le Monde and The Irish Times cited findings from French intelligence and Pentagon documents indicating that instructors and American mercenaries had provided combat training to dozens of Rwandan officers. Some reports even alleged that American advisers had accompanied the RPA as it extended its rampage into the Congo. These destructive incursions marked the opening salvo of the endless DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo) “world war”, a cataclysmic conflict that has so far caused the deaths of millions of people.
Historians and authors such as Filip Reyntjens, René Lemarchand and Judi Rever largely agree that the APR, as well as the rebel group AFDL (Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire) supported by Uganda and Burundi, killed tens of thousands of Rwandans. and Congolese Hutus in the DRC between 1996 and 1997. A United Nations report published in 2010 insisted that in most cases the perpetrators did not commit these atrocities unwittingly in the heat of the moment and can be guilty of “crimes of genocide”.
Yet the United States is not alone in enabling, unwittingly or unwittingly, regimes inclined to commit serious crimes. In December 2008, Guinean army captain Moussa Dadis Camara spearheaded the “German coup” that brought a military junta to power in Conakry. Deutsche Welle reported that Camara and his co-conspirators received extensive training from the German armed forces in Bremen. German-trained paratroopers unleashed a wave of extreme violence against peaceful protesters at the Conakry stadium less than a year after Camara suspended Guinea’s constitution and threadbare republican institutions.
Amnesty International said security forces murdered more than 150 people, injured hundreds more and raped or assaulted dozens of women and girls with sticks, bayonets, rifle butts and truncheons in broad daylight . A failed assassination attempt quickly eliminated Camara, only for another ruthless soldier – the Moroccan, French and Chinese trained Sékouba “Le Tigre” Konaté – to take his place. To this day, indiscriminate member states of the European Union continue to provide military training and weapons to African countries hampered by weak civilian governments and very powerful armies. It’s a recipe for disaster.
Ideally, massive popular movements in the United States and West Africa should try to convince the representatives to put a permanent end to these bordering colonial military exchanges. Following this, Congress needs to pass more laws that would strengthen background checks on future interns. Further, any manuals, manuals or instructors advocating torture and other illegal or inhumane tactics should be removed and replaced with courses aimed at improving civil-military relations.
However, adding human rights or international law awareness modules to military curricula is by no means an effective solution. Political scientist Jacob Ricks fears that promoting courses or practices aimed at professionalizing and strengthening the social responsibilities of the military is a lackluster strategy. Survey data demonstrates that many high-ranking Siamese soldiers, already among the biggest beneficiaries of US IMET programs now replete with professionalization courses, are statistically more likely to support a coup or greater military interference. in Siamese politics and society. Thailand has withstood 19 coup attempts since 1932. Teaching soldiers to respect the sanctity of human life, democracy and the rule of law, while necessary and beneficial, is clearly not enough to curb these vicious tendencies.
West African politicians and civil society groups need to be more creative and ambitious if they ever hope to tame their often unruly armies. Professor Kwesi Aning, head of academic affairs and research at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Center in Ghana, told University World News that African states continue to send troops abroad to s train because they do not have the resources or facilities to train them properly at home. . This creates a dangerous power imbalance as troops trained abroad, imbued with illusions of superiority and entitlement after studying in the United States, France or Germany, might return home with a burning desire to take the control. According to the lessons, particularly in the United States, foreign-trained soldiers might begin to perceive their fellow citizens not as ordinary people in need of protection, but as potential or internal enemies to be eradicated.
Building truly sovereign, well-funded local military academies dedicated to teaching civil-military cooperation and unencumbered by nefarious relationships with exploitative militaries in the North would be a step in the right direction. To paraphrase Colonel Jahara Matisek, West African nations must develop military institutions rooted in their own histories and cultures. Only then can trustworthy armies emerge and the curse of the coup finally fade.